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"Nah, musing is fine. You don't have to be 'doing science'": emotional and descriptive meaning-making in online non-professional discussions about science

Marsh, Oliver Martin; (2018) "Nah, musing is fine. You don't have to be 'doing science'": emotional and descriptive meaning-making in online non-professional discussions about science. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

In this thesis I use online settings to explore how descriptive and emotional forms of meaning-making interact in non-professional discussions around ‘science’. Data was collected from four participatory online fora, from March 2015 to February 2016. Posts and comments from these fora were examined through discourse analysis, supplemented by interviews with participants and computer-aided text analysis, over the period August 2015 to August 2017. Theoretical background drew on Science and Technology Studies (STS) and Fan Studies (FS), to examine how science was presented in both descriptive and emotional terms. There were two main findings. Firstly, discussions were shaped by an expectation that members should respect mainstream scientific consensus. In a manner familiar from STS, participants treated claims which went against scientific consensus as incorrect or noncredible. Responses also showed emotional aspects which shaped participation. Respect for scientific consensus facilitated social bonding and expression of community values, while disrespect was met with anger and/or ridicule. Through normalisation of such behaviour, scientific authority was maintained by communal sanctions rather than accredited expertise. The second main finding was a distinction between two forms of discourse, which I refer to as musing and identifying. In musing, participants focussed on specific phenomena, technologies and science-related concepts. Emotional language in such discourse was generally positive, but explicit mentions of people were rare. In identifying, participants reflected on processes of discussing and making/assessing claims; in doing so they foregrounded references to people. Emotional references in identifying tended to involve frustration, concern, and scorn. These findings develop STS understanding of how engagement with science takes place outside of professional research, communication, and/or education; and, more broadly, how discourse around science can be shaped by emotional attachments and informal norms. This thesis also contributes a discourse analytic perspective to recent debates around the interaction of expertise and emotion online.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: "Nah, musing is fine. You don't have to be 'doing science'": emotional and descriptive meaning-making in online non-professional discussions about science
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Science and Technology Studies
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10044289
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